Archive for the ‘Hachazon War’ Category

Round up #281: Arthur, Hugh, and John

January 7, 2015

Round up #281: Arthur, Hugh, and John

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Hugh Howey: Where Do We Go From Here?

There have been a lot of posts looking at publishing in 2014 and where it might go in 2015 (I’ve done them myself).

Author Hugh Howey (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) has one of the most interesting reviews in this

blog post

Howey was in the news, even in the mainstream, as one of the leading author defenders of Amazon during what I call the Hachazon War (the dispute between the retailer Amazon and the publisher Hachette). That can be a difficult position: everyone understands when you are a defender of the weak, but they can be less sympathetic to a defender of the strong.

That particular issue is an example of why this is a strong article. Howey says:

“2014 was the year the first of the major publishers was able to resume its squabble with Amazon over the price of ebooks. Hachette drew the short straw…”

Yep…all of the traditional publishers were going to negotiate with Amazon this year, and it happened to be Hachette that got into the public over the fight. It wasn’t necessarily something intrinsic to Hachette, something that made them different from the rest of the Big 5. It was even more public than the dispute Amazon had with Macmillan some time back.

I strongly recommend the article, for some of the best observations on issues including subsers (subscription services).

I will say that Howey doesn’t answer the title question, but that doesn’t lessen the value of this piece.

Well done, Hugh!

Dish will offer Sling TV on Fire TV and Fire TV Stick

There is a lot of buzz over Dish Network’s announcement of a new service…one pretty good analysis is this

Washington Post article by Brian Fung

but there have been many.

In this

press release

Dish calls it a “game changer”, and it’s certainly an interesting move.

For $20 a month, users will get the following networks (initially):

ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, ABC Family and CNN

The big one, in terms of draw, is ESPN: live sports without a cable contract (there is no contract for Sling TV).

They will also offer “add-on packs”:

  • “Kids Extra” add-on with Disney Junior, Disney XD, Boomerang, Baby TV and Duck TV for $5
  • “News & Info Extra” add-on with HLN, Cooking Channel, DIY and Bloomberg TV

A “Sports Extra” add-on pack is also coming.

I’ve mentioned before that we are largely using a

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and a

Fire TV Stick (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

for our TVs at this point, and are looking at dropping cable video altogether.

One channel I would really miss if we did that was CNN, which is part of this…but I don’t think we’d pay $20 for it at this point.

For under $20, we have both Netflix and Hulu+, and that works pretty well.

However, many people will buy Sling TV for the sports…and they are really trying to attract the New Millennial generation (born roughly from 1982 through 2004, but different people define it differently). Adult Swim is probably also a draw for them.

One thing this doesn’t have is the big four broadcast networks. You can get quite a bit of that through Hulu+, but not live. Oh, and you do have ads on Hulu+ (but not on Netflix).

CBS has “All Access” for $6 a month, although it isn’t everything.

The perfect “cord cutting” solution isn’t here yet, but it seems clear that more flexibility in TV programming options is coming.

John Scalzi on Kindle Unlimited

One of my readers, Peter Willard, alerted me to this

blog post by John Scalzi

Scalzi is a good writer. We have seen things differently in the past, and that is still the case here, but I think it is worth reading the article.

This is not a flat condemnation of

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

as one might guess. I do think it will be good for some authors (many, actually), not good for others…just like any other distribution channel.

One place where we disagree is this statement by Scalzi:

“That said, the thing to actively dislike about the Kindle Unlimited “payment from a pot” plan is the fact that it and any other plan like itabsolutely and unambiguously make writing and publishing a zero-sum game. In traditional publishing, your success as an author does not limit my success — the potential pool of money is so large as to be effectively unlimited, and one’s payment is independent of any other purchase a consumer might make, or what any other reader might read.”

As a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, that’s a bizarre concept. One author’s sales don’t affect another author’s sales because there is such a large pool of money?

That certainly wasn’t my personal experience, or my perception of what my customers thought.

Customers generally had only so much money they could spend (although they might exceed it, of course). Certainly, there were a lot of people not spending much money on books, and they are hypothetically a potential audience, but I don’t think that’s what Scalzi is suggesting.

Let’s say there were ten alternate history books available in my store. Customers chose which one or two to buy, usually…they didn’t buy all ten. That wasn’t because that customer didn’t want to read all ten: it was because they had to be selective due to budgetary restraints.

I don’t see how that means that if they bought Author A’s book it didn’t affect whether or not they bought Author B’s book.

Yes, there is a difference with Kindle Unlimited…although, I’d say it’s less about one author being chosen over another than traditional publishing is.

Take those ten alternate history books, and say they are all in KU.

It seems much more likely to me that a KU member will read all ten…or at least, will read at least 10% (the payment threshold) of all ten.

Why not? It doesn’t make a difference in what they pay if they read one or ten…unlike traditional publishing.

However, the more borrows there are, the lower the individual payment.

If the pool of funds is one million dollars, and there are a million borrows that month, each borrow gets $1.

What this does do, I suppose, is mean that it is a benefit for authors/publishers if people read less. That’s new. If there were only 100,000 borrows, each borrow would be worth $10, not $1.

For traditional publishing, the more somebody buys to read, the more money is going to authors/publishers…not necessarily more to a specific author or publisher, but more altogether.

With KU, the more people read, the less goes to individuals, although the pot is the same.

That is, of course, unless Amazon raises the pot.

That’s what I think may happen…if KU proves to be a good way to get people to become and stay Prime members, or in other ways integrate more deeply with Amazon.

That’s where the money is from consumers: “diapers and windshield wipers”, not e-books.

I also think Amazon is going to make an increasing amount of money from suppliers.

I could even see a scenario where they charge big publishers to be in KU or to have their books featured in it, as another revenue stream.

Interesting times…

Marc Brown’s Arthur e-books on Kindle for the first time

Seven of Marc Brown’s Arthur the Aardvark children’s books are available on Kindle for the first time.

Arthur in the Kindle Store (at AmazonSmile*)

These are very popular books which have been around for years…you may also be familiar with the TV series.

Note that text-to-speech is unavailable on these books…not, I believe, because it has been blocked by the publisher (in which case I  would not be linking), but because these are picture books and the text is part of the image, inaccessible to the TTS software.

Yes, they are available through Kindle Unlimited.

Bonus deal: I know this is late in the day, but Amazon is continuing to offer many more than four titles in the

Kindle Daily Deals (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

They have “15 First-In-Series Mysteries and Thrillers, $1.99 or Less Each”, and there are some good titles there. I added Eric Van Lustbader’s The Ninja to my Kindle Unlimited wishlist. 🙂

Amazon Echo update

More invitations have been going out, but nothing for me yet. Still waiting patiently. 🙂

What do you think? Are authors talking more about the publishing business because they are becoming more in control of it with the additional power of indie e-distribution? Do authors generally want other authors to succeed, thinking a rising tide raises all boats, or is there competition for readers? Do you choose between similar books when you buy? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Hachazon War: peace declared

November 13, 2014

Hachazon War: peace declared

I was on my phone and additionally limited when I sent the first very short version of this post, but this obviously deserves a major update.

It’s being widely reported (I’ll include links later on) that Amazon and Hachette have reached an agreement after months of a messy contract negotiation that saw Amazon discouraging customers from buying Hachette books (by delaying them, putting ads on the books’ pages for other books, removing the ability to pre-order them, not discounting as deeply, and, I think perhaps by not listing them on their books of the year, except for one…these are all allegations that have been made. It would be hard to prove the exact motivations).

It also got authors involved on both sides…pro Amazon and anti-Amazon (not so much pro or anti Hachette, I’d say). For more on my coverage of what I’ve been calling the “Hachazon War”, see

this category of posts on this blog

I’m not seeing an announcement in the Amazon Kindle forum, yet, so I’ll be going by what is in the news as I look at the ramifications.

Interestingly for readers, this appears to be a return to the “Agency Model”, meaning that Hachette will set the prices that consumers pay for e-books.

There has been confusion about that. The U.S. Department of Justice went after the publishers that had used the Agency Model and forbade them from using it…for a while.

That wasn’t because the Agency Model was in itself illegal. It was because they had, according to the DoJ, used it to do illegal things.

I said before that it was sort of like a baseball bat. You can own a baseball bat, and you can carry it around. However, if ten of you got together and used baseball bats to inflict damage on somebody, a judge might say that you ten can’t have them.

I’ll admit: this makes me uneasy.

The Agency Model, by its nature, reduces price competition. If the publisher sets the consumer price at multiple sales channels, it’s unlikely that it will be lower at one than at another. Amazon has always used the power of discounting, and this pretty much takes that out of the picture for the e-tailer.

Here’s a phrase which has been in several stories:

“…pleased with this new agreement as it includes specific financial incentives for Hachette to deliver lower prices.”

That’s attributed to an Amazon executive, David Naggar.

It says clearly to me that Hachette gets to set the prices.

I’m guessing the incentives would be Amazon agreeing to take a lower cut at different price points. Hypothetically: “Price the books under $10, and we’ll take a 30% cut. Price them at higher than $14.99, and we’ll take a 50% cut.”

The logic behind that, which Amazon has explained, is that many more of the books will sell at $9.99 than $15, so they  make up the difference on volume.

I’m happy to see it settled, but I still don’t like it. As a former brick and mortar bookstore manager, I don’t like the idea of the publishers setting the prices. The store owner/manager should do that, it seems to me.

Publishers don’t have the experience at doing it, and I see that as a problem.

Another big issue for me is how nimble they will be. When something  big happens in the news, a store can slash the prices on all related books…let’s say a celebrity announces an engagement. A store might give 10% off on all of the books about that celebrity…to get people into the store, where they will hopefully also buy other things.

A publisher doesn’t have the same motivation to make someone a customer of a specific store. They’d probably have to run the idea through a pricing committee, which looks at all the stores, runs projections…and by then, the logical discounting window may have closed.

I’m not saying it will happen that way, just that I’m concerned. I suppose all of the big publishers could hire retail pricing managers…and give them considerable autonomy to make the decisions.

One question is whether Hachette will strike this same deal with other big e-book retailers…hmmm, just who would that be again? 😉

Amazon has now reached agreements with Simon & Schuster and Hachette, leaving three of the Big Five to go: HarperCollins; Penguin Random House; and Macmillan.

Another interesting thing for me: how does this impact the subsers (subscription services), like Oyster, Scribd, and Amazon’s own

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

?

My guess?

It helps them.

I think the prices may rise under these agreements, at least somewhat on some titles (I’ll keep track of prices, as I always do).

That will, in turn, make the subsers more attractive.

We’ll have to see, though.

I took a look at

Hachette’s Grand Central books in the USA Kindle store (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

That’s sort of their “blockbuster” imprint. I didn’t see any delays listed on any of the ones I checked, including

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike Book 2) (at AmazonSmile*)

by J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith…that had been one of the most high profile books in this dispute.

I also didn’t notice any Stephen Colbert books being delayed.

Good will all around from here on forward?

That would be my preference…but I wouldn’t bet the bullfrog.

Here are some of the articles:

and a search at Google:

Amazon Hachette in News

Update: more links now that there has been a bit of time since the announcemnt:

What do you think? Feel free to tell me and my readers by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #271: bookstore paradox, the Amazonapocalypse

September 30, 2014

Round up #271: bookstore paradox, the Amazonapocalypse

Attacking Amazon

Rage is all the rage right now. 😉

Even though I expect the

Kindle Voyage (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

to do very well, and we are getting the Family Library (sharing books across accounts…although, presumably, in a limited fashion), and I bet we are going to get more cool services from Amazon in 2014 (expanding Firefly, the “real world recognition” software from Amazon is part of that…I find I’m using it pretty often to identify an actor on a TV episode, and to enter food into MyFitnessPal (at AmazonSmile*)), this is year where Amazon has been under attack…and I expect some of those aggressions are going to leave a mark (at least for a while).

Four years ago, I was writing about how super agent Andrew Wiley was in conflict with Random House over Wiley bringing e-book versions exclusively to Amazon.

Wylie riles

Now, Wylie has this to say:

If Amazon is not stopped, we are facing the end of literary culture in America.”

I guess it’s a good thing Random House got Wylie to back down…wouldn’t have wanted to see the poor thing get caught up in such a den of iniquity. 😉

Just kidding: I’m sure Andrew Wylie would say that Amazon isn’t the same place it was four years ago…and that Random House didn’t make the agent change any plans.

Then there is this

Salon article by Jim Hightower

which three ups Wylie by giving us “4 ways Amazon’s ruthless practices are crushing local economies”.

Hightower says:

“Amazon is insidious, far more dangerous and destructive to our culture’s essential values than Walmart ever dreamed of being.”

You see? It’s not just our literary culture, it’s our culture’s essential values.

I say it’s time to get the pitchforks and torches and storm the castle! Oh, we don’t have any pitchforks and torches? Here, I’ll 1-click some…we’ll be ready in two days. 😉

The 10 commandments of a book lover

The ever reliable EBOOK FRIENDLY has this

article by Ola Kowalczyk

with an image by Brittany Foster of ten commandments of a book lover.

I don’t agree with all of these, but I think it’s a fun graphic…and I wanted something fun after the first story.

I’ll just list one to whet your appetite:

“Thou shalt have more book covered surfaces in thine residence than not.”

Banned Books Week

Last week was Banned Books Week

http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/

and I realized I didn’t write anything about it.

Well, I could say that I did and it was censored, but that wouldn’t be true. 😉

I have written about it in years past, and I think readers know…I would always err on the side of openness. I would rather that someone reads something they “shouldn’t” than that ten people aren’t allowed to read something they should.

I believe that you want people exposed to ideas that you don’t like. It’s the only way they can judge them…you don’t want to be sprung on them when they aren’t expecting it.

For me, I’d say, “Let the hate speakers speak.” I don’t like it…I’m even thinking I was too harsh on Andrew Wylie in the first story (even it was in fun). However, hateful ideas are a bit like vampires…sunlight destroys them. If somebody thinks that all of x group should be hurt in some way, I want to know that before they do it…not after. I want the power of laughter and rational thinking to be unleashed. I want to give their opponents an opportunity to challenge the ideas in open forum.

There is an argument for age appropriateness for me. My feeling is that once your sense of right and wrong is reasonably established, a book advocating “evil” things won’t make you evil…but you may be open to a book advocating “good” things, which can make you a better person.

I’m always surprised, though, when families don’t want their children exposed to ideas different from theirs (I’m not talking about porn, here, but philosophical differences). It always makes me think that you must not consider your ideas to be very strong, or your child to have much respect for you.

I wanted our child to choose our ideas because the kid agreed with them…not because there was no other choice offered. We don’t agree on everything now that our kid is an adult, of course, but some of our fundamentals are the same…and we can accept the differences.

If you’ve never seen differences, how can you possibly accept them?

My First Bookstore

This

Huffington Post article by Celeste Ng

is an interesting remembrance, and comparison of the bookstore experiences of our youths with those of being a parent.

I don’t remember which was my first bookstore…because there have been so many.

I would go into a bookstore and spend hours there (and no, I’m not talking about when I managed one). 😉

I think I remember most dusty, cramped, used bookstores…there was such a hope there that you would discover a long lost treasure, a book that might change your world.

Oh, I haven’t told you this before…and it’s one of the weirder things in my life.

There was a comic book/science fiction store I would visit. On more than one occasion, I swear I would arrive there before I left.

I even demonstrated that to people. We’d leave the house at, say, 3:15, and get there at 3:05 (I think the trip should have been about twenty minutes, as I recall).

It made sense in a sci fi way, but I couldn’t quite explain it.

I’m sure that will surprise some of you, because I think I sometimes come across as very scientifically based…and this certainly doesn’t fit in with science. 🙂

My best weird story like that was in high school.

I had a history teacher I liked…we got along well. I remember asking if I could teach the causes of the Civil War one day, and was allowed to do that…it went very well.

So, one Friday, this teacher told a joke in our class: “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” Yes, they do…fruit flies like all kinds of fruit. 🙂

I thought that was funny, and repeated it to friends.

Monday morning, the teach told the same joke. The teacher looked and me and said, “You’re not laughing.”

I said, “I thought it was funny on Friday.”

The teacher denied telling it on Friday…and the rest of the class denied hearing it. I was thinking they must have forgotten it, and then the teacher said, “It was in Herb Caen this morning.”

Herb Caen was a famous San Francisco area columnist, and I checked…sure enough, it was there Monday morning, and not Friday (I’m not sure I have the particulars right, but the basic story is right).

The people to whom I’d told it Friday? They remembered me telling it to them…and telling them I’d heard it in that teacher’s class.

Interesting that it was that joke…seems apropos.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite childhood bookstore? What made it special? Will Amazon shrug off the criticism? Will it drive them to give us more practical benefits…or eventually crush them or cause them to raise prices? What if you couldn’t take your child to a bookstore…would spending time online with them looking at books be similar? Would going to a public library be the same? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #269: how Amazon spent the summer, AmazonShack?

September 16, 2014

Round up #269: how Amazon spent the summer, AmazonShack?

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Should Amazon buy Radio Shack?

Several articles are talking about Rob Peck of SunTrust Robinson Humphrey’s suggestion that Amazon could buy Radio Shack if the latter declares bankruptcy. Here’s one that I thought had a good discussion of the idea:

MarketWatch article by Jennnifer Booton

I don’t really see it. They certainly don’t want the name or the operating strategy. Generally, when Amazon takes over a business (IMDb, GoodReads, Zappos) it keeps the name and the business runners…and the basic system.

Would owning the physical stores do them any good? Well, first, that would depend on the leases, but let’s skip that.

Many Radio Shacks now are tiny, and they don’t seem to me to have a good layout. I don’t think people would go to an old location out of habit, and then shop at an Amazon store.

They are in expensive malls in many cases.

I suppose they could become lockers, where you can pick up your Amazon orders in your town, but it doesn’t seem like the most efficient place to do it.

Would a strictly Amazon hardware place work? Kindles, Kindle Fires, Fire TVs, Fire Phones? Nope, I don’t see it…maybe as a pop up store at the holidays, but not year round.

It’s not to Amazon’s advantage to encourage you to go to physical stores. They live online…it would be like a shark trying to stalk a New York alley. 😉

Who had a bad summer?

I think you’d be hard pressed to find another three month period that was so negative for Amazon, in terms of public relations. Yes, people didn’t like it when Amazon removed a George Orwell book from their Kindles, and they are still having some repercussions from that, but generally, they got past it.

Recently (in the September 5th issue), Entertainment Weekly did a Summer Winners & Losers piece. In the books category, they classified Amazon as a loser, saying in part that they had made enemies of “…book publishers, the German Government, George Orwell’s estate, and Stephen Colbert — to name a few.”

The

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile)

is being pegged (prematurely, in my opinion) as a loser. I have one myself, and there are some real attractions to it. I’ve recently used Firefly a few times to identify TV shows: worked great! Within about ten seconds, it could tell me the name of the episode, who the actors are, and so on. I suspect Amazon will give it three years…if developers start really building for Firefly and dy-per (dynamic perspective), I think it could be a solid 15% player in the SmartPhone market…and a much bigger moneymaker than that for Amazon.

However, Amazon’s success (in terms of sales and market share, not profit) has depended to a large extent, in my opinion, on good will with customers. It doesn’t help that many of the customers’ favorite authors are part of Authors United, which is about to send a new letter to the Amazon boardmembers. You can read the letter here:

http://www.authorsunited.net/

It’s worth reading. They make some important points, including that many of them are not Hachette authors, and are therefore not directly impacted by what I call the Hachazon war.

I think this short excerpt from the letter sums up the argument:

“Since its founding, Amazon has been a highly regarded and progressive brand. But if this is how Amazon continues to treat the literary community, how long will the company’s fine reputation last?”

Going to the Board (and publishing their contact information) is an interesting tactic. The Board could pressure the company to change a position.

That’s not to say that I agree with everything in the letter. Amusingly, they suggest that Amazon can’t be forced into doing anything. I say that’s amusing, because Amazon has in the past always lost when they’ve gone up against the big publishers…text-to-speech and the Agency Model are two good examples. In the latter case, it took the Department of Justice to make a change.

That history might be part of what may have convinced Amazon to do an “end around”…to try to keep customers without being so reliant on the tradpubs (traditional publishers). We now see that many of Amazon’s bestsellers are not published by the tradpubs. Would it take a long time to get people to make that switch? Sure, but Amazon is famous for taking the long view.

That can’t possibly do it if the customers aren’t on their side, though…

Checking in on my free Flipboard magazines

I continue to be amazed at the growth of my free Flipboard magazines.

The main idea is that you can use the

Flipboard (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

app, which I read every morning anyway on my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile*)

to “flip” articles into a magazine of yours, which you make available to other people for free.

To me, it’s a different medium, in the way that Twitter is.

I doubt I’ve had anything else which has reached more people…although I don’t make any money directly from it, and it certainly doesn’t satisfy my creative nature like this blog does.

Don’t worry…I still love you best. 😉

The Measured Circle

“A geeky mix of pop culture, tech, and the weird world”

The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

  • 2,278 readers
  • 5,630 page flips (by other people of my article choices)
  • 6,124 articles

ILMK (I Love My Kindle)

“The long-running blog about the world of e-books and publishing, which is one of the most popular blogs of any kind in the Kindle store, brings you related news stories”

ILMK magazine at Flipboard

  • 654 readers
  • 35,590 (!) page flips
  • 3,607 articles

The Weird Old Days

“Has the world always been weird? These news stories from the 19th and early 20th centuries bring you tales of lake monsters, the Hollow Earth, ghosts, and more! Edited by Bufo Calvin, of The Measured Circle blog. Note: these articles reflect the culture of their times. As such, they may use terms and concepts which some modern readers will find offensive”

 http://flip.it/ZtmYw

  • 112 readers
  • 381 page flips
  • 269 articles

Doc Savage Fanflip

“Doc Savage, the forerunner of Superman and Batman, has been one of my fictional heroes for a very long time. Thanks in part to Doc, I try to better myself to help others, and to do so with “…no regard for anything but justice.” A “fanflip” is my new term for a Flipboard magazine by a fan, dedicated to one topic. I will bring you not only Doc Savage news, but Doc stories and resources from around the web. Think of it as a scrapbook with news.”

http://flip.it/HJShc

  • 100 readers
  • 272 page flips
  • 89 articles

As you can see, The Measured Circle has the most readers…but ILMK has by far the most article flips by other people.

For more information on them, see Update on my free Flipboard magazines.

What do you think? What would Amazon’s best strategy be to get public opinion back…or do you think they haven’t lost it? Do you think Amazon is working to make the tradpubs irrelevant to their success strategy? Should Amazon buy Radio Shack? Would that be like Futurama coming back after it was canceled? 😉 Should Amazon even have brick and mortar stores? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

 Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #265: Signs of the tomes, WorldReader.org

August 23, 2014

Round up #265: Signs of the tomes, WorldReader.org

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

CNN writes about WorldReader.org

I’ve been writing about

WorldReader.org

for years, and I was happy to see them recently get a nice story on CNN:

CNN article by Katie Linendoll

WorldReader is a non-profit (you can donate at the above link) which gets Kindles and e-books to children in difficult circumstances (this article focuses on Africa). They also can help them with electricity and satellite internet.

There are great pictures heading the article, and a good perspective on why this is so important.

First, let me say: reading matters. It helps to read about people who are like you (they do make a real effort in that direction) and people who aren’t. It broadens your horizons, and gives you mental tools which can help you succeed.

So, why not give kids in remote villages paperbooks?

The biggest thing is getting them there. We have friends who say they will never help us move again, because of all the p-books (paperbooks) I own. My books would hardly be enough to keep a school going very long, even though I have something like ten thousand. Most of my books are mass market paperbacks, which are relatively small and easy to transport. It would be a very different story with ten thousand hardbacks.

Another thing is that p-books simply don’t last that long, especially in very humid climates. Most people really degrade p-books when they read them: it’s typically a snap to be able to tell if a copy of a p-book has been read before: the spine will show it, and the pages may have wrinkles and folds.

An e-book isn’t decayed when read.

I found the article heartwarming, and strongly recommend it.

Author backs Amazon: claims it is the best hope for publishing

There have been so many takes on what I call the “Hachazon War”, the dispute between Amazon (a bookseller) and Hachette (a publisher). It’s much more than that, of course…this is really a battle over the future of publishing.

Oh, the future won’t be decided just here…these things go back and forth.

I think it’s important to realize that this isn’t just a price negotiation…there are some basic questions at stake.

It comes down to this: is the current model of traditional publishing the way things will go in the future?

Steve Cohen in the Wall Street Journal

argues that it isn’t…and that the current model is unsustainable.

Cohen says, “I think Amazon is far more likely to come up with innovations that may save book publishing, which is in desperate need of being saved.”

I think we’ve seen a pretty clear split: authors who have been succeeding in the status quo want to maintain it. Authors who have not are interested in change.

In both cases, that might be short-sighted. An indie might eventually get picked up by a tradpub (traditional publisher) and benefit from the current model. The current model could fail, leaving authors who depended on it stranded.

Ideally, author would know how to make it both systems, and there are those “hybrids” who currently both indie publish and are tradpubbed.

The article has some interesting stats, and is worth reading.

“Help me, Jeff-Bezos Kenobi…you’re my only hope.” 😉

Buzzfeed: 13 Clever Signs that Will Make You Want to Buy a Book

This

Buzzfeed article by Aaron Calvin (no relation, as far as I know

reproduces bookstore “signage”…and those can be quite clever.

You should go to see the pictures…I love the one that explains why every book is actually…well, let’s just say science fiction technology, and let you discover why. 😉

The Book-Lovers’ Anthology from 1911

The always reliable EBOOK FRIENDLY

has this

article by Piotr Kowalczyk

about a book which is in the public domain from 1911 about the love of books. They link to sources there.

Sex sells…but not always enough

There is mythology out there that the one absolutely sure business is selling sex, but it just doesn’t work that way.

I’ve listed freebies in the past in this blog from the publisher Ellora’s Cave, which specializes in…um…let’s go with erotic romance.

Well, they’ve recently had to lay some people off (and I am not going to comment on that phrase in this context) ;), due to a big drop in sales…that is only happening at Amazon.

They don’t know why.

It’s interesting to speculate. Amazon does get pressure to not carry erotica, or to make it not appear in search results.

Is it possible the e-tailer has done something which reduces the visibility and discoverablity of Ellora’s Cave, therefore reducing the sales?

Perhaps…but that’s pure speculation.

It could also be that there is increased competition from indies (independent publishers). I took a look, and the books do not appear to be in Kindle Unlimited or the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

That’s an interesting question (even though KU has only been around a month and isn’t likely to have had this sort of impact on this company yet).

Could it be that small tradpubs are going to be most hurt by new models?

The larger tradpubs are often part of media conglomerates, and simply have more reserves (including the brand name authors). They may be able to batten down the hatches and get through some changes.

Indies clearly benefit from new models, like KU. Many publisher will make more money when there are books are borrowed than they would if they were sold.

The smaller tradpubs, which at first benefited from the more open distribution of e-books, may find that if they are not super discoverable, people who are willing to with a non-tradpub will simply take the ones they find, rather than digging around.

That would be an important turn of events, and perhaps an unfortunate one.

Authors might end up with two choices: go with a huge tradpub, or go it on your own.

Going it “on your own” doesn’t mean that you don’t have an editor and other resources…it does mean you might have to pay for them yourself.

We’ll have to see what happens going forward.

What do you think? Is Amazon the best hope for authors…let’s say ten years from now? Are smaller tradpubs especially at risk? What’s the best bookstore sign you ever saw? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Kindle indies getting pre-orders

August 15, 2014

Kindle indies getting pre-orders

When Amazon wanted to put pressure on the publisher Hachette during some recent negotiations, one thing they did was take away pre-orders from some books.

Pre-orders are important. One of the big things they do is drive a book up the bestseller list, even before it is released (it’s not uncommon that some of the bestsellers are on pre-release).

Broadly speaking, traditionally published authors have tended to side with Hachette during what I call the “Hachazon War”, and indies (independent authors) have tended to side with Amazon. That’s just a rule of thumb, though…your authors may vary. 😉

One ironic thing that some indies mentioned, though, is that they couldn’t do pre-orders for Kindle books when using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Amazon punished Hachette by taking away something it hadn’t given to any of the KDP indies.

Well, I’m happy to let you know that’s changing!

Indies can now also do pre-orders, as outlined in this

public KDP help page

It’s pretty simple: you say that a new book will be published at a future date, and allow pre-orders (it can happen in any of the KDP markets except India, which doesn’t do pre-orders for some reason).

Pre-orders push a book up the bestseller list.

The publisher (which may be just the author) doesn’t get paid until the customer is charged (on release day), but does get reports about pre-orders before that.

This certainly helps level the playing field.

One concern I have: what happens if somebody announces a pre-order…and then doesn’t have the book ready?

Do they just get to announce a new date, or are the orders canceled and then they have to be placed again?

Part of the idea of this is that you could announce a book while you were writing it or while it was in the production phase following the writing.

They only let you have up to ten at a time, but I predict right now that you’ll see people doing those ten, and doing them into the future. If somebody produced a series, and you could pre-order them now with a book coming out every year (or six months or month), that might make many people more likely to buy it.

Hey, here’s an idea: somebody could do one where a chapter or short story came out every day for ten days. You could pre-order them all on the same day, and then it would be sort of like a serialized novel.

I’m not big on pre-orders myself, but many of you may use this.

Oh, I should mention: you can’t pre-order Kindle Unlimited “borrows”. I’ve mentioned that before, but I’m sure some people are getting caught by that. They intend to borrow the book, and pre-order it…and then get charged for it.

I should also mention that Amazon announced much bigger “pool pay” for publishers in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited. That’s the money that people split for each borrow, and it made sense that they would raise it, since one has to assume that Kindle Unlimited has added a lot of borrows to the pool.

I wonder if Amazon was thinking that they needed to something good for authors right now, during the Hachazon War. I don’t think that would have been the sole impetus, but it might have accelerated a development schedule.

Amazon is, I believe, needing tradpubs (traditional publishers) less and less…and to do that, they need authors. Making publishing through Amazon more attractive helps get that content (and often exclusive content) that they need to thrive without the Big Five.

What do you think? Do you care about pre-orders? Do you deliberately check what is coming up in the future? Have you ever pre-ordered a book and not gotten it when promised? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Amazon’s “Important Kindle request” for KDP authors

August 9, 2014

Amazon’s “Important Kindle request” for KDP authors

I received an e-mail from Amazon, which I am reproducing below. My understanding is that is generally acceptable to distribute an e-mail you received, unless it is marked private or tells you not to distribute it. I don’t think Amazon will mind in this case, since they’ve also publicly published it. I’m going to let you see it without any commentary from me. If you have comments about it yourself, please feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post. I may respond to those or write more about this later, but I didn’t want to prejudice you about it before you had read it.

Update: I’ve gotten some good comments on this, and I see it is getting a lot of coverage in the blogosphere. I am going to add my opinion about it to this post, after the communication from Amazon. That will still give you a chance to read it first.

Dear KDP Author,

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the
foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read). A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures. And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch: Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com

Copy us at: readers-united@amazon.com

Please consider including these points:

– We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to
overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
– Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like
paperbacks did.
– Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
– Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not
united on this issue.

Thanks for your support.

The Amazon Books Team

P.S. You can also find this letter at www.readersunited.com

Update: after seeing some comments from my readers, and being directly asked what I thought about it, I’ve decided to add my opinion and analysis to this post.

I suspect some of you will be at this blog for the first time because of linkages to other sites, so let me set up a little bit about what might affect my opinions.

I am a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, which might tend to align me with the retailer in this case, Amazon. However, a lot of brick-and-mortar folks don’t like Amazon, so that might dilute that impact. I am also an author of books which are published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, and so have made money from Amazon. This blog, as well, is one of the top-selling blogs of any kind in the USA Kindle store: another thing that might make me lean towards Amazon.

Also important: I’m a very happy Amazon customer, and use a Fire Phone, Fire TV, Kindle Fire HDX, and Kindle Paperwhite daily. I’ve had a very good relationship with Amazon.

I’m also a publisher, which might make me sympathetic to Hachette. That’s in a small way: I’ve only published my own work, not counting public domain books I’ve digitized for a non-profit.

I believe I can give you a fair analysis, regardless of those factors.

As to my overall opinion on the situation: Amazon shouldn’t pretend to carry the books. Either carry them, or don’t. If you can’t reach a satisfactory agreement with Hachette, drop the books. I think Amazon is seriously hurting their relationships with customers by having product pages for books, and then making getting them difficult or impossible. Customers will project that to all of your products, they won’t really care about the reason…and they will feel like pawns you are willing to hurt in the game.

I’d like to see the two sides settle, and have things get back to where they were. That’s my ideal outcome. If that doesn’t happen, I’d be happier with the Hachette books out of the store than in the store with barbed wire around them.

Now, as to Amazon’s e-mail:

It appears to me to be designed to lead people to an emotional conclusion, and one can certainly argue that it is designed to mislead them.

The first part is particularly bizarre, where they talk about the history of paperbacks. This is where Amazon is sticking to its positioning as being populist (using the word “nope” is another indicator of that) and against the establishment, and in doing so, it’s conflating things.

Let me restate what they said about the paperbacks, and which they then use to make Hachette the big bad (as part of the establishment):

Publishers produced a new cheaper version of books. Many retailers refused to carry them. An author opposed them.

See? When you restate it, the publishers were the good guys for readers, and the retailers were the bad guys… and “famous” authors were bad, too!

  • Publishers = Hachette = Good Guys
  • Retailers = Amazon = Bad Guys
  • “famous author” = everybody who signed a recent letter against Amazon’s tactics = Bad Guy Sympathizers

Isn’t that the opposite of what Amazon wants you to think?

That third bullet point is especially interesting because they addressed this e-mail to authors! It seems like they want to create a firm schism between traditionally published famous authors, and indies (independent authors).

The reference to Orwell is fascinating, because they then do a sort of Orwellian Nineteen Eight-Four “newspeak” to somehow make that an argument in the current situation in favor of a retailer versus a publisher.

The next thing, which sparked comments on this post, was the assertion that  “Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99”, which people naturally took to suggest that Hachette was making people pay $19.99 for a novel.

Amazon typically discounts books from the publisher’s suggested price (the DLP or Digital List Price), so it isn’t that easy to use pricing numbers at Amazon to determine how many books are being released at a certain price point. Looking at the analysis in my monthly Snapshot for August 1st, 2014, there are very few books (in terms of percentage of the store) at the price points I check between $19.99 and $24.99:

$ 19.99 | 7,239 | 0.27%
$ 20.99 | 717 | 0.03%
$ 21.99 | 744 | 0.03%
$ 22.99 | 2,679 | 0.10%
$ 23.99 | 960 | 0.04%
$ 24.99 | 915 | 0.03%

I doubt that one percent of the e-books have a DLP of $19.99.

I did a search for

$19.99 or higher e-books from Grand Central in the USA Kindle store (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Grand Central is one of Hachette’s big imprints. My results?

Five titles: two omnibus (more than one book is included) titles, two cookbooks, and a “coffee table book”. No single novels.

My readers’ comments not surprisingly indicated a reluctance to pay $19.99 to Hachette, presumably for a single novel.

They aren’t asking us to do that.

The price you pay is up to Amazon, not Hachette. Part of the dispute with the publishers (which led to the publishers having to settle with U.S. Department of Justice over accusations of collusion to raise e-book prices) had to do with Amazon selling e-books at a loss. If Hachette did price a book at $19.99, Amazon could still sell it to you for $9.99. Amazon would take a bigger loss that way, which I’m sure they’d rather not do.

Amazon can take (and apparently has taken) a loss on many e-books. If good prices on e-books get you into Amazon’s ecosystem, which then gets you to become a Prime member where you’ll buy much higher margin physical goods (what I refer to as “diapers and windshield wipers”), then it is well worth it.

Hachette can not set the price you pay for a book through Amazon: that’s part of what the problem was with the Agency Model, where they were able to do that.

Another disingenuous thing in the e-mail, in my opinion, is Amazon’s numbers on how many more books an e-book sells at $9.99 than at $14.99.

They conveniently leave off the likelihood that the discrepancy is due in some part to the book being cheaper than other comparable books, not just to $9.99 as a discrete value.

Here’s what I mean:

If some books are $14.99 and some are $9.99, the $9.99 appears to be more attractive…people will see it as “saving five dollars”.

If almost all books were $9.99, that “comparison positive” disappears. Maybe then the 1.74 multiplier would apply to books at $7.99 versus books at $9.99, although I doubt it would be that high. I do think there is a psychological impact with books priced under $10 versus $10 or higher (we certainly saw that in my store), but I think the 1.74 multiplier wouldn’t be reliable if all books came down in price.

Again, these are observations of the e-mail, not of the position. I think the e-mail, which they knew would be seen by readers in addition to the authors/small publishers to which it was sent (Amazon posted it themselves at “Readers United” ((which has an e-mail address at Amazon.com)), and in fact, addressed it to readers rather than authors at that site) to manipulate readers and authors into pressuring Hachette.

That’s the part I don’t like.

To reiterate, I think Amazon’s Kindle has been wonderful for book culture. I think more people are reading books, including the classics, because of it. I think books are more accessible, and are able to be published by more people giving us a greater variety.

Here’s my best guess for the future:

  • Authors will increasingly control the distribution of their books, not needing the tradpubs’ “machinery” to get a book out there, both in terms of distribution and discovery. We’ll see more brand name authors independently publishing some of their work. It’s possible that an author collective might be part of it. Indie authors will see a relatively golden age, in the beginning
  • Tradpubs will figure out alternate distribution channels, although they won’t be as effective as Amazon is right now. Some of that will be direct selling from the publisher to the reader…they have to solve the discovery issue first. I think it will be a mix, with some tradpub titles at Amazon, some through other channels. I’ve mentioned that I think we might see “ancillary” and non-canonical works in Kindle Unlimited from the tradpubs (short story prequels, sequels, and sidequels ((a term I use for works set in the same universe, but not in sequence or focusing on the same characters)), reference works, and so on), and the main series (which requires less discovery) sold through alternate channels
  • Amazon will do fine. I wrote recently about how they could improve contextual linking, but Amazon will continue to make it easier for us to buy books. The books are not going to be their profit drivers, but I expect them to be part of the strategy
  • Readers will benefit from these changes. We’ll have more books for less money

As requested, now you have my opinion and analysis. I look forward to more of your comments on this issue.

Update: I’ve flipped several articles about this into the free ILMK Flipboard magazine, but I thought I’d link to a couple of the stand-outs here:

  • IN WHICH AMAZON CALLS YOU TO DEFEND THE REALM by Chuck Wendig: I have to warn you about this one first, because the “F word” shows up right away. That’s always an interesting choice: while it may more accurately reflect the way you speak and feel, it considerably limits your audience. That said, I thought this was a hilarious take on the Amazon e-mail, and the Hachazon War generally
  • Dispute Between Amazon and Hachette Takes an Orwellian Turn by David Streitfeld in The New York Times: I hadn’t researched the quotation Amazon uses to say that, “…famous author(s)…” “…are “wrong about that” (seemingly trying to equate George Orwell with established authors like Stephen King who recently signed a letter to Amazon decrying the e-tailer’s tactics). Streitfeld does a very nice job of explaining the context of the quotation, and how Orwell actually supported cheap paperbacks. There was no need to rush this e-mail out, as far as I know, and it appears to have come from an official Amazon source (although some have found it so strange, they wonder if Amazon was hacked). Presumably, they had time to actually research the quotation, and chose to use it in a way which the author would probably not have intended. According to Streitfeld, the original quotation is, “The Penguin Books are splendid value for sixpence, so splendid that if the other publishers had any sense they would combine against them and suppress them.”

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Amazon gives numbers: it’s about prices, not share

July 30, 2014

Amazon gives numbers: it’s about prices, not share

Amazon has added a fascinating

Kindle forum post (at AmazonSmile: support a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which does something Amazon rarely does: it gives specific numbers.

I know when I do my analysis posts, some people just skip them. 🙂 Not everybody likes seeing the mathematical interiors of something they enjoy:  for some, it’s like seeing an x-ray of the person they are dating. 😉

However, these are statistics as a weapon…a weapon in what I call the Hachazon war. That’s the ongoing disagreement between Amazon and Hachette, one of the Big Five publishers (presumably, Amazon is also in or going to be in similar negotiations with the other four).

It’s a carefully crafted post, with again, Amazon taking the populist/consumer point of view…and tacking on support for authors.

I’m not saying that isn’t how they sincerely feel: it certainly could be. It’s just apparent to me that the statement has a very large position framing component…and it’s reasonable that it does, of course.

I recommend that you read it, and I do want to point out some key points.

The biggest argument made is that Amazon isn’t fighting with Hachette over revenue share, as has been reported. It’s not (according to the e-tailer) about trying to get, say, 50% of the sale rather than 30%.

It’s about keeping the prices low.

Amazon argues that e-book prices should be lower than p-book (paperbook) prices. Since the rise in popularity of e-books with the release of the Kindle in 2007, that’s been many consumers’ intuitive sense. We would see posts about that all the time in the forums: “There is no paper cost, it’s just a file.”

For many of those posts, it was clear that they didn’t understand the economics (which Amazon presumably does). They were only talking about manufacture, and that is a small part of the cost of producing a book. I remember an analysis, way back when, that an e-book was about 12.5% less expensive to produce than a p-book.

How can that be?

What costs the most money isn’t the paper, it’s the people. Even for an e-book, you still need to pay the author (although not necessarily the same amount), the editor, the cover designer, the proofreader, the layout artist, and so on.

You still have the same legal costs.

Marketing costs could be different, but are still significant.

Amazon adds in other costs including, interestingly, used sales. Since e-books can’t be sold used, they argue, the initial price can be lower.

If a p-book is sold for $20, and then sold used for $10 and used again for $5, the publisher only gets money out of that initial $20. If the people who paid $10 and $5 for it would have paid $20 otherwise, those second and third sales are a loss of revenue…which the publisher has to make up on the first sale.

Of course, many people who buy a used book at a reduced cost wouldn’t have bought the new book at the full price…but it’s a reasonable argument. Amazon has worked on creating a used e-book market, but that would presumably be a case were the publisher would get a cut of subsequent sales.

Here’s the big stat in this short excerpt from the post:

“We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.”

Amazon is saying, “Lower the price and make more money.”

They explain how that benefits everybody: publishers; readers; authors; and Amazon.

You know what it doesn’t benefit?

P-books.

That’s always been one of the publishers’ concerns with Amazon pricing many new and popular e-books at $9.99 (which sometimes meant Amazon was selling them to consumers for less than what the e-tailer paid the publisher). It’s “price perception devaluation.” If a Stephen King novel is worth $9.99 as an e-book, why is it worth $25 as a p-book?

If e-book prices set the market perception of what a book should cost, it hurts p-books.

You might think that would hurt Amazon as much as it does the tradpubs (traditional  publishers), but tradpubs have a massive percentage of p-book sales in brick-and-mortar stores (and those do still matter), and a likely significantly decreasing percentage of e-book sales.

I was a brick-and-mortar bookstore manager…and almost all of our stock came from the biggest publishers (the few that didn’t came from smaller traditional publishers, represented by a distributor such as Publishers Group West).

We simply needed the size and services of the big tradpubs. You need to be able to replenish stock quickly when a book is hot, and get credit for copies when a book is cold.

The smaller independent publishers didn’t have the resources to do that.

All of that goes away with digital reproduction and distribution.

The Big Five’s power is disproportionately in p-books…and POD (Print On Demand) hasn’t changed that (yet).

The other thing Amazon says in the post is that the publisher should get 35%, Amazon should get 30%…and the author should get 35%.

To me, that’s a little…manipulative, I guess. Amazon (as they say later in the post) can’t control how much the author gets from the publisher…that’s a matter of their contracts.

It would be like…looking over at another table at a restaurant, and saying to the six-year old, “You know, if your parents really loved you, they’d give you the whole pizza.” 😉

Authors, of course, are not like six-year olds…I expect we’ll see some pointed comments from some of the Hachette-side authors about this part of the post.

Brand new or aspiring indie-authors may have the relative “life experience” of a six-year old, in terms of publishing, but they’ll have different abilities to judge.

Speaking of those indie (independent) authors, you may think that what Amazon is saying isn’t unreasonable: after all, Amazon pays KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) authors either 35% or 70% (the latter if they meet certain guidelines).

Yes, but that’s a different case from Amazon’s traditional publishing efforts.

With KDP, the author/publisher (they are often one and the same in that situation) takes on the costs and risks of development of the book. Amazon takes on some of the marketing costs, although the publisher will many times continue to have those as well. Amazon will also have Customer Service costs, and accounting costs, but for the bulk of the costs, it falls on the indie.

KDP is a platform: the author delivers the book and updates it as needed, and Amazon sells it.

Amazon’s traditional publishing, and the Big Five’s, involves a lot more investment.

The other thing about pricing is that consumers (and Amazon is positioning itself as seeing things from that viewpoint) look at an individual sale, while publishers (and stores) look at populations of sales.

Popular books support unpopular books.

As readers, we do want publishers interested in something besides profits on each title.

We want them to take risks on new authors, and we want them to publish “meaningful” books which won’t be popular.

If a researcher spends ten years documenting working conditions in 19th Century America (I’m just making that up as a topic), it’s not going to top the bestseller lists…but it’s important that the information be out there and preserved.

That book will probably never make back its developments costs…so popular books have to be priced somewhat higher to enable the publisher to take a loss on the “public good” book.

That’s not inherently different on e-books and p-books…except that the risks are quite a bit lower on e-books.

Right now, it’s likely that e-books are, to some extent, supporting the publishing of p-books. They are providing, if not a higher margin, a better cushion for taking risks on the development of p-books.

All of that said, this is an extraordinarily revealing post, as far as Amazon goes.

What do you think? Will it persuade the public to be more on Amazon’s side? How will authors react? Would consistently lower e-book prices hurt p-book sales? Would that cause publishers to take fewer risks with p-books, resulting in less innovation? Would indies pick up that slack? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #261: Shannara to the screen, $85 PW2 refurb

July 15, 2014

Round up #261: Shannara to the screen, $85 PW2 refurb

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Refurb PW2 for $85 (today only)

I know that many of my readers prefer the non-Fire Kindles, so it’s always nice to be able to write about a deal for them. 😉

Gold Box Deal of the Day: KPW2 refurb for $85 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

That’s the current generation Kindle Paperwhite, which is normally priced (this is all the USA store…this deal may not be available in your country) for $109.

The Paperwhite is a great reader. It’s only big lack is in not having sound, so it can’t do text-to-speech (or audiobooks or music), but otherwise, I like it a lot.

“Refurbed” is short for “refurbished”. I’d never hesitate to buy a refurb from Amazon: they have the same warranty as a new one, and they’ve been inspected perhaps more carefully.

I would guess that new items have been inspected outside Amazon (by the actual manufacturer), and refurbs are inspected at Amazon, although I don’t know that for sure.

This is a Deal of the Day, so although it may go on sale again at some point in the future, it won’t be the price tomorrow.

If you’ve been debating getting a newer model non-Fire Kindle, this is something to consider. I’d say that there are people who prefer some of the earlier models (both for the sound, as I mentioned, and for a physical keyboard), but they won’t last forever…

The Hachazon War and the rhetoric of class warfare

This

Gigaom article by Laura Hazard Owen

is one of the most interesting takes I’ve seen on what I call the Hachazon War (the dispute between retailer Amazon and publisher Hachette) to date.

The lengthy piece points out how Amazon is positioning itself as being the populist entity, and the publishers are the establishment.

Well, yes.

Despite Amazon being a huge corporation, in this case, they have very much empowered small indies (independent publishers, which can be individual authors) and disrupted the status quo.

Which authors have tended to come out in favor of the big publishers?

Brand name authors who have benefited from the tradpubs’ (traditional publishers’) prior dominance.

Which authors have tended to come out in favor of Amazon?

Indies, even if some of them make enough money now to be in the same league as many tradpubbed authors.

When being published and widely distributed required a huge infrastructure, tradpubs ruled.

E-books don’t require that same structure. Accurately, we can say that Amazon provides that infrastructure…to pretty much everyone.

Amazon also pays more royalties (the percentage authors get of each sale) that the tradpubs.

I do think tradpubs bring legitimate value to the process…but theirs is no longer the only process.

Owen does a great job of pointing out how even their corporate language differs, with Hachette tending to be formal, and Amazon tending to be informal.

I highly recommend that article.

On the other hand, there is this

Huffington Post article by Maddie Crum

It’s about how to “quit Amazon” as a customer, and is written in a humorous fashion.

I don’t put this one on the “other hand” because it is anti-Amazon…while I like Amazon, I haven’t liked some of their tactics in the Hachazon War, and have said so.

There was one particular statement, though, that pulled me up short:

“How does one stop purchasing books, and also many other things, from a company that has been repeatedly accused of price fixing…”

Um…I’m not sure if Crum realized that accusations of price-fixing against Amazon came from publishers…who accused them of fixing the prices too low! Publishers complained about Amazon selling bestsellers (apparently often at a loss) at $9.99, which led to the agreements with Apple to raise those prices that eventually brought in action by the Department of Justice (DoJ).

Amazon has been accused of a lot of things by a lot of people (including pressuring publishers, including academic publishers, to take a smaller cut), but artificially raising prices and locking them in at a higher price hasn’t commonly been one of them.

In an article supposedly explaining why it is…perhaps inappropriate to keep shopping at Amazon as a customer, pointing out that they have low prices may be ineffective. 😉

A bestseller…and more than fifty years old

I’ve been watching the sales ranking of

To Kill a Mockingbird (at AmazonSmile)

It’s been in the top 100 in the USA Kindle store.

That matches my prediction that it could be one of bestselling e-books of the year, although we have a ways to go yet.

I think we may see a considerable jump in its sales when the school year has started (as the book gets assigned), and I think it may also be a popular holiday gift.

Due to the former reason, I think it will have solid sales for quite some time.

E-books have a much longer sales cycle than p-books (paperbooks). The economics are very different. You don’t have to predict how many to print and order and store, so you don’t have to tie your promotional efforts into that time when the paper copies are available.

With p-books, you typically get huge sales in the beginning, and a rapid dwindling.

With e-books, they are around (with no supply challenges) for a long time. It may be that they sell almost nothing at first, and then spike, then taper a bit, then sell at a lower level, then spike again, and so on.

Very different strategies, just based on the medium.

Terry Brooks’ Shannara coming to MTV

No, this is not Game of Thrones. 😉

A popular fantasy series is being adapted for television:

Shannara series (at AmazonSmile)

The feel of the two is very different…this should be a whole lot lighter.

According to this

The Hollywood Reporter article by Lesley Goldberg

and other sources, the series has solid geek cred in the production department: Jon Favreau (Iron Man), Al Gough and Miles Millar (Smallville).

This is another case where you might want to read the books first. The series will reportedly be based on The Elfstones of Shannara. Text-to-speech access is blocked in the single edition, but not in

The Sword of Shannara Trilogy (at AmazonSmile)

omnibus (three novels in one).

There are more than two dozen books in the series, with more on the way…

What do you think? Do you buy refurbs? Even though I think they are fine, I don’t usually do that. One reason? Since I’m going to write about them, I want them on release day. When do you buy a new model Kindle for yourself? Only when an old one fails? When a new one is released because, you know, that’s cool? When they are on sale? Is Amazon the champion of the “little guy”? Think back to when you were in high school (assuming you no longer are)…what media did you love that was fifty years old at that point? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Amazon offers Hachette authors 100% royalty

July 10, 2014

Amazon offers Hachette authors 100% royalty

I’ve previously said this:

“Hachette (a publisher) and Amazon (a retailer) are in the midst of a turbulent negotiation. It’s like Godzilla battling Mothra…and unfortunately, in that scenario,we readers are Tokyo.”

Well, there is another group that might be considered collateral damage…authors.

Those aren’t the only ones affected, but let’s focus on that for a minute.

Essentially, fewer Hachette books are probably being sold right now, because they are not as available through Amazon.

Authors traditionally get paid a percentage (called a “royalty”) when a book sells.

It could be a percentage of the purchase price, or a percentage of the list price of the book.

How much of a percentage?

That varies.

In p-books (paperbooks), a brand name author (Stephen King, Anne Rice) might get 25%, more authors might get 10 to 12%, and it can go down from there.

For e-books, the royalty tends to be higher. Independent authors who go through Amazon get 35% or 70%…the latter if they follow certain guidelines, including the price of the book and participating in Amazon’s special features (like text-to-speech).

In my last post on this:

Hachazon War: the Battle of Petition Hill

I wrote about some authors condemning Amazon, and some supporting them.

Well, according to this

New York Times article by David Streitfeld

Amazon is offering authors a higher royalty while this dispute continues.

Are they going to give these traditionally published authors the same royalty as the indies…35%?

Nope, higher.

70%?

Nope, higher.

Try 100%.

O N E  H U N D R E D !

That’s right…Amazon is offering to give the authors every single penny the retailer gets when it sells one of their e-books (published by Hachette).

What’s that dull thumping sound I hear?

Oh, it’s Amazon investors…fainting. 😉

There are costs of sale for Amazon, so they would clearly be losing money on each of those e-books. They have to pay something for maintaining the infrastructure, the administrative cost of collecting sales tax (where they do that), other accounting, providing Customer Service, and so on.

This is getting heated, and public.

This

Mashable post by Jason Abbruzzese

has Hachette’s response to the offer (it’s not favorable).

Amazon’s response to that?

I quote in part:

“We call baloney.”

The company that sells

close to a thousand thesauruses (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

went with a schoolyard epithet. 😉

What do authors think about the offer?

In that same article,

Douglas Preston (at AmazonSmile)

is quoted as saying,

“To take that money would really violate my moral and ethical principle.”

Preston mentions wanting to pay back advances before the author would take any of the millions of dollars this might mean.

Let me explain that part.

One of the big arguments for tradpubs (traditional publishers) is that they pay authors advances.

What that means is that, if they are reasonably sure your book will sell (because you have a solid track record, or are perhaps a celebrity, or they like your topic), they will pay you the royalties first…often before the book is even done being written.

That’s an “advance” on the royalties.

That’s often what enables an author to complete a book.

Let’s say you are a brand name author…you are likely to earn millions in royalties from next book (and the publisher is going to make many times that).

They could give you $100,000 for you to live on for a year to write the book…but you would have to pay them back out of the first sales of the book.

My understanding is that authors are almost never asked to give back an advance even if a book doesn’t sell…but that has happened.

When you publish a book yourself, you don’t get an advance from a publisher.

One new technique is crowdfunding, though.

People pay indie authors in advance for a book…they buy it before it is published.

In exchange, they often get something extra: e-mails from the author, or maybe a special additional short story. There might be a “meet the author” party.

Those early buyers may even pay considerably more than the general public eventually will.

That’s one of the threats to tradpubs.

One thing about which I’m not quite clear.

It sounds like Amazon is proposing that Hachette also give up their part of the book sale in some of the articles I’ve seen…in others, it makes it sound like it is Amazon unilaterally giving up their part.

Obviously, that makes a difference. 🙂

If the book is list priced at $10, we’ll say that Hachette would get $7 of it.

Amazon sells it for $8.

Amazon sends that $8 to the author (under the new proposal).

Do they also send $7 to Hachette?

If they don’t, clearly, Hachette would have to agree…and this letter would put the ball in Hachette’s court.

If they do send the money to Hachette, Amazon directly loses $15 instead of making $1.

Yep…an expensive proposal.

I think there is a lot at stake here.

This could change the landscape.

It might drive authors to do much more independent publishing.

It could cost Amazon a lot of goodwill with the public (although not, apparently, with my readers, based on a poll I did not too long ago).

It could cost Hachette marketshare.

However, on that last point, it’s worth noting that Amazon is going to have to negotiate with the others of the Big 5 publishers. Right now, I’m guessing they may be trying to wait to see what happens with this one. Contracts expire at some point, regardless, so it’s going to happen.

I do find this all quite interesting…but I am looking forward to writing about something else tomorrow! 🙂

What do you think? How will this change the literary landscape…or is it just a bump in the road? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


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